I met with a young, male client last week who is struggling with growing up. Although he enjoys the privileges which go along with getting older, he misses being a kid and living, to some extent, a carefree life. I have found this to be typical with many young men I meet with and I think it is a problem in our society which has been gravely unnoticed. Young men in our society our supposed to pass the bridge from boyhood to adulthood with no recourse and just be ok with it. I believe we need to focus more on helping our boys become men and learning how to be a man and helping them identify what it means to them to be a man and what they want to achieve.
The young man I was meeting with was discussing the differences between being a kid and being an adult, or being a kid at heart, trapped in an adult world. When I asked him the biggest difference, he said very quickly, “The size of the universe.” I was completely perplexed and asked what he meant. “Well, when I was a kid, the universe was only as big as how far I could ride my bike. But as I’ve grown older, it’s gotten bigger and bigger and bigger. Now, I don’t even know the boundaries of my universe and I just wish I could go back and just ride my back to the end of the street and be ok.” Wow!
What insight for such a young man. I hadn’t really ever thought of it that way. We both went to the same elementary school and I explained to him that I had gone back, years after I had left that school, and visited. I explained that the ceilings were shorter and the chairs and desks were tiny. It didn’t feel right and I didn’t like the how it made me feel. In reality, the building hadn’t changed. I had. Old isn’t really an appropriate word. Lost would probably be more appropriate. Like a man without a country, because part of me was still in 4th grade waiting for Mrs. Hopp to read us “Help I’m a Prisoner in the Library”, while it snowed outside and I waited to go home at 3 to my mom and dream all night long over graham crackers and white frosting of the possibility of a snow day. Yep, those were the days. The carefree days. People that know me well know I remember so much from my childhood, and that’s a great thing, but sometimes it’s painful too…because I’m not sure I want to be 37 everyday. Some days I want to be 9, in Mrs. Hopp’s classroom. Or 16, riding around with my friend’s, smoking cigarettes and singing songs to tapes, or 22 when I first got sober, or even younger, way, way back when my friend Jessie and I would roller skate in our basement and my mom would bring us tuna fish sandwiches and orange juice. 37 is great, and just last night I was telling a friend that I was having such a great night because I felt like such a perfect mix between Holden Caufield in Catcher in the Rye mixed with Gatsby sitting outside his house. I was the age between. It’s a little bit the best of both worlds.
But alot of days, I wish I could get back on my bike, spread my arms wide, riding with no hands, and reach the end of my universe. But like my dad says, from the lyrics to the Christmas song Toyland, “once you pass the portal, you can never go back again.” And that’s true. But wouldn’t it be nice, just every once in awhile, if we could return to those days just for a moment? Or maybe, just maybe, we need to truly enjoy each passing moment before it’s part of the past, because, as you know…we’re on borrowed time as it is!